1 January 2018Luke 2:15-21
“All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (vv. 18-19)
Psalm: Psalm 8
There are a few reminders in these verses that moments of heavenly splendour or encounter with God should lead to action or response.
At the very start of the passage, the angels left to return to heaven. The more earthly shepherds, on the other hand, left for Bethlehem, inspired to find the baby they’d heard about. The angelic encounter prompted them to search and act. It might have been natural for them to be afraid, to disbelieve their own experience, or to keep quiet for the danger of being thought mad or revolutionary. Equally, it might have been sensible for them to decide to stay where they were paid to be. But something about the experience seems to have driven them to go.
Another moment of encounter happened at the manger, where they found the confirmation of the angels’ message. This is quite matter-of-fact; the shepherds “found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger” (v. 16). But the fact that this was just as the angel had told them it would be (verse 20) made it clear to them that this was no ordinary family. So they shared their testimony, to share with others the astonishing specialness of this apparently prosaic scene. That manger-side encounter, coming in clear fulfilment of an angelic experience, inspired them to share their testimony, to glorify God and to offer praise. They were filled with what could be described as Spirit-led worship, and now they had become the bearers of the angelic message.
And that encounter at the manger had a lasting impact on Mary too. She was inspired not so much to action, as to thought. Yet we might well imagine that the thought would stay with her over the years to come, helping her to understand the task she had been given, the identity of her son, and the meaning of events which happened throughout his life.
Mary’s own angelic encounter came to completion not just in the birth, but in the naming of Jesus (verse 21). This small yet crucial detail reminds us that she, too, was still responding to her sense of Spirit-filled, divine experience.
- Have you ever encountered God, or God’s love, in a way which led you to glorify and praise God, as you return to the ordinariness of daily life? What happened?
- Through the shepherds’ testimony, they were able to impart understanding to Mary and Joseph, or at least provide them with food for thought. Whose (perhaps unlikely) testimony might help you to grow in understanding of the love of God?
- What is the place of testimony in your life of faith, and in the life of the Church? What potential danger or benefit is there in the giving of testimony?